Signs of Spring

Anyone who lives in Alberta will attest to the fickle nature of our weather. It can be hot and sunny one minute and then a full-scale blizzard the next. As the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. Hence, marking the change of seasons using the traditional method of calendar dates can often be futile and meaningless.

Case in point: the calendar told us spring officially began on March 21, but over the past month and a half we’ve had a substantial amount of distinctly more fall and winter-like weather (including a few good snow storms), interspersed with a small percentage of shades and hints of spring. As I’ve already mentioned, this isn’t a departure from the norm, but year after year we Albertans somehow expect things to be different. When will we ever learn?

Despite my familiarity with the predictable unpredictability of our weather patterns, I am also impatient, and was beginning to feel as though Mother Nature was going above and beyond simply playing hard to get. Our spring season was being an outright tease, holding out and intentionally eluding us all. And even though I generally try my best to not allow the weather to dictate my moods, I was a little bummed out by the constant gloomy skies and cooler temperatures.

But all of that changed for me today.

As I raked the dead grass and leaves from the front lawn, sun shining down on me and birds chirping overhead, I paused to observe the Schubert Chokecherry Tree in my yard.

I noticed a series of glossy green shoots bursting forth from its branches. I admired the darling buds, not only as visible signs of life, but also the beginning of something new and inexplicably beautiful. In that moment, I understood how each one inherently holds the promise of transformation, both for itself and the greater whole of the tree from which it grows. And until the time comes for these buds to explode with new life, they  continue to lay in wait, simply trusting the intelligence of their instincts.

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And just like that I was filled with renewed hope. My faith in the divine timing of the universe—and my life and the seasons—was restored. Yes, sometimes it is that simple!

It’s exciting to bear witness to the natural world in action, and to be reassured that seasons of waiting and trusting are rewarded. And just as I am confident the buds on my tree will surely bloom into a show of breathtaking purple leaves, I understand the relevance of this observance as it applies to the current season of my own life.

Growth happens at the cellular level.

Transformation takes time. Important changes need to be allowed to simmer below the surface in order to work their way into being.

Renewal is largely invisible to the human eye, but the process is an absolute prerequisite for the physical manifestion of change.

There is no need to rush the buds to bloom. Only they can decide when the time is right to make their debut.

I know this much is true. I see the signs of spring all around me, and I feel it in my bones.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for your wisdom and showing me there is a season for everything.

Some things truly are worth the wait.

 

Resting in The Ease of Being

It’s the final eve before our last day of our Maui family vacation. My daughter, son, and husband are all snuggled into their beds. I’ve just done some pre-packing to make life a little easier for myself tomorrow, and as I sit down with my feet up and a glass of red in hand, I am called to reflect on the last dozen days we’ve spent together here .

Maui has been good to us. Our accommodations were great. The weather has been fantastic. We’ve had some phenomenal food, including our fill of some of the freshest ocean-caught fish. We’ve enjoyed fun activities, and the wonderful company of family and friends, both old and new.

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And as I sit here sipping my wine, I can’t help but ask myself, “What has been the real story or theme of this vacation?” This is not a simple question to answer. Sure, I have some definite ideas on the subject, but it’s complicated, and I’m not even sure I fully understand. In any case, I’ll do my best to explain…

It’s an idea that seems to be following me around lately, wherever I go—even 5,000 kilometers from home across the Pacific Ocean. It first appeared a few months prior to this trip when a friend and I were discussing the contrast between the states of doing and being. The conversation centred around how we’d both been caught in the trap of constant doing, and were consequently feeling the effects of our (somewhat self-imposed) rat race; the pressure of accomplishing our goals crushing us with the constant plaguing thoughts of inadequacy and not measuring up to the world’s standards or our own potential. To put it bluntly, we were both a little…miserable.

The remedy to the loss of self and suffering that accompanies the extreme state and preoccupation with doing, we concluded, must be found on the flip side. That glorious place where thought subsides, stillness prevails, and we are…well, we just ARE. The shift to the state of being is synonymous with a move from being led by the thoughts in our head to following the truth of our heart.

In being, we are more likely to see the beauty around us, to find joy in simple pleasures, and to be content with the presenting reality, whatever it may be and regardless of whether that reality is considered good or bad. When we are in this state of being, we are more responsive to the richness of life in each moment, and more able to trust in the unfolding of the universe, opposed to feeling the need to manipulate and control situations to satisfy the needs and preferences of the ego. In being, we do not try to impress others by pretending to be something we are not. We are not looking to “be” any certain way; we just are the truest version of ourselves, pure and natural.

Given the sharp contrast between doing and being, it’s not hard to see how people get lured in by the charm of going on vacation; the saviour of taking a break from the craziness of their everyday lives and the busy-ness that comes to define not only their schedules, but also their identities. For many, vacations are the most personally and socially acceptable way of slowing down and moving from doing mode to just being.

It’s more acceptable to relax on vacation, versus the constant challenge of doing—the state of mind that focuses on getting things done, driven by what is desired, required, expected, or feared—that dominates the way we live in western culture. In other words, it’s not expected that we accomplish much, if anything, on vacation, whereas we have a never-ending list of duties, responsibilities, obligations, and goals in our day-to-day lives. We are almost always striving to achieve something, not only because this is how our society is run, but also because it is how most of us have come to define ourselves (based on the ego).

Seeing the polarity of doing and being as two completely opposite ends of a spectrum has highlighted for me how it’s not desirable to spend too much time at either end. Rather, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each and to be aware of my own natural tendencies in order to stretch and flex myself from one side to the other, as the situation dictates, or even to find the middle ground when necessary. You know what they say about too much of a good thing, right?

“Life is an immense happening. You can go on a trip, you can go on vacation, you can go to the other side of the earth, but you can’t escape life. You can go to the moon, but you still can’t escape life. You can’t escape existence.”
~Adyashanti, Falling Into Grace

Having said all of this, I feel like I’ve achieved a healthy balance of doing and being over the past 12 days, and that I am inching ever closer to uncovering my authentic self because of it. I also believe this time of learning and self-reflection has been an important part of my metamorphosis. As I undergo these important changes below the surface, I can feel myself becoming more self-aware and aligned with the truth of who I am.

And so I find myself here in this very sweet vacation-induced spot that rests delicately in the balance between the doing and the being. From this beautiful place, I’d like to offer a quick recap of a few of my favourite moments from our Maui vacation:

  • All the awesome “un-ness” of being on vacation—being completely undone, unscheduled, and unplugged (to a greater degree than normal) has allowed me to unwind and has been undeniably relaxing and rejuvenating, like a magic reset button for my central nervous system. Aaaaaaahhhhh.
  • I am grateful for having had the luxury of doing what makes my soul happy (and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else instead), such as reading while lounging poolside, yoga, running, daydreaming, dining out, and napping.
  • Being wrapped warmly in a soothing blanket of the sun’s rays. I bow in reverence to the mysterious healing power of the sun—its light and heat a balm to my soul, not to mention how it melts away my hard, jagged edges and transforms me into a kinder, gentler version of myself.
  • Witnessing the ever graceful beauty of the palm tree port-de-bras, as the fronds dance and sway gently in the breeze, reminding me that it’s better to bend under pressure, than it is so to break from resistance.
  • The tranquility of going with the flow of floating above a coral reef teeming with colourful fish while entrusting my safety to the universe, given the strength and direction of the current.
  • Traveling over 5,000 kilometers from Edmonton to Maui to get together with a friend, who happens to live about five kilometers away from me at home.
  • Having a first-hand appreciation of the meaning of “Maui midnight.” Given all of the fresh air, activity, and time spent outdoors, I don’t think I was ever awake later than 10:00 p.m., and that’s saying something cause just staying awake until 9:00 in Maui is a feat in and of itself!
  • The commanding presence of the surf and sea. You can’t help but be in awe of its power and the emotion it evokes. I dare you to try.
  • The magnificence of the vegetation and trees along the road to Hana, branches growing toward each other from the outer banks of steep valley gorges to form a lush canopy of green. Their beauty is surpassed only by their majesty.
  • Being reminded that all living things, in their natural state, are a reflection of love. I am comforted in the knowledge that love is the natural state into which I was born and also where I will ultimately return, in this life and beyond.
  • Knowing how amazingly blessed I am to experience all of these things, as well as to be able to witness, with sincere appreciation and gratitude, the significance of it all.

So as the sun sets on yet another magnificent family vacation, my final parting thought is one of deep gratuitude to the island of Maui for sparking my inner fire and allowing me to see the natural beauty in all living things, for showing me the importance of balance, and for helping me to remember I am love.

Mahalo
xo

 

 

Survival Tips for the Highly Sensitive Person

I’m just going to come right out and say it…
I think February needs to be the new January.

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As you may have guessed, January 2017 was less than stellar in my books. I started off with some fantastic intentions (I do not make New Year’s resolutions), but the universe clearly had other plans of taking me down another path.

And I’m just going to be really honest here: I felt profound sadness. It was hard, and I did not do most of the things I said I was going to do. And then I got frustrated and angry with myself, and my sadness responded by doubling itself. And then some other stuff happened within my personal circle, and in reply my sadness tripled. And then more craziness ensued in the world, and my sadness multiplied exponentially. I felt as though I had the weight of the world sitting on my chest, crushing my tender heart and making it difficult to breathe.

I was left with no other choice than to acknowledge the feeling. I had to speak the words aloud, “I am sad. I am sad and I don’t even know why.” And then I had to feel it. But a miraculous thing happened. I felt the sadness, and then I also felt it dissipate.

There is no question in my mind that we’re living in a precarious, chaotic, and seemingly irrational time. The craziness of our world is a lot to process, never mind trying to achieve anything beyond the act of getting yourself out of bed in the morning. Needless to say, I think we should be awarding medals to everyone who made it through January. Like, seriously. If you’re reading this and you survived, I salute you. (Bonus points if your sanity is still intact.) Virtual high fives and big squishy hugs, all around!

The way I see it, a new month is the perfect antidote for the confusion, hurt, and disappointment that seemed to dominate my introduction to 2017. That’s why I’m taking a personal Mulligan. A do-over. I’m pressing the reset button, wiping the slate clean and starting anew, with a fresh perspective, renewed enthusiasm, pure energy, and a positive attitude.

But I’m also able to look back at the past month with a sense of appreciation—for teaching me, although painfully at times, some valuable and much-needed lessons. In retrospect, I can see how all the crappy stuff that happened was the universe’s way of getting all up in my face and creating the prime conditions for me to recognize my own self-destructive patterns. And, if I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure I heard the universe call me out.

A small, yet incredibly powerful voice from somewhere deep inside me began to ask: “How serious are you, really? How bad do you really want this stuff? When life gets hard, are you going to curl up into a ball, or do you want it bad enough to actually fight for it? What are you going to do now? How will you respond?”

January, in all its cruelty and harsh insensitivity, was a severe blow to my tender heart. In the past I may have been inclined to just crawl back into my bed, pull the covers up, snuggle in tight, and hide for a while. But after reflecting on both my experiences and reactions, and taking into consideration what has been working for me and what absolutely hasn’t, I’m pleased to say I’ve learned a thing or two—or maybe even eight.

And because sharing is caring, I’ve decided to post these lessons here, particularly for those of us who lean toward the more sensitive end of the spectrum, as my essential tips for surviving in this crazy world when nothing seems to make sense and the world seems to be slipping off its axis:

Begin with awareness

As with just about everything else in the known universe, surviving (and thriving) as a sensitive person in this world begins with awareness. What I’m really talking about here is self-awareness and having a clear understanding of your own strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. When you work on developing your own self-awareness, it allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude, and your response to them in the moment. Self-awareness really is the first and most important step toward creating what you want and living as the master of your own life. When you take a step back and witness yourself as an objective observer, what do you notice? Whether you are interested in stopping a specific kind of emotional reaction, changing beliefs or behavior, quieting the critical voice in your head, or creating more love and happiness in your life, you must begin with awareness.

Make self-love and self-care the top priority

I’m sure I’ve talked about this at least a thousand times, but this message is so important it bears repeating. And I will continue to shout it, loud and proud, from the rooftops, over and over again, until everyone who needs this message gets to hear it. Self-love and self-care are not selfish; they are absolutely essential. Who is going to take care of you, if not for you? Do not expect anyone else to do it for you, because if you do you are giving away your power and making yourself a victim. Sorry, I know I am starting to get a bit preachy here, but it’s only because I believe so wholeheartedly in the necessity of taking good care of yourself and loving yourself above all else. You can only take care of others if you take care of yourself first. You can only love and have successful relationships with others if you love yourself first. You and your needs are important, and you need to ensure your thoughts and actions line up with that reality. Do something nice for yourself everyday, just because you are you and you deserve it.

Feel all feelings

This is a doozy for anyone who identifies as a highly sensitive person, because we have so many feelings and experience them with great intensity, but it applies to everyone, all the same. By their nature, emotions are meant to be felt and expressed. It is so essential that we allow the energy of our emotions to move through us, rather than stuffing them down inside, numbing out, or denying the experience. Stifling emotion can actually be very detrimental to your well being—both physically and emotionally. Granted, it takes work and practice to feel your feelings, and can be a little uncomfortable, particularly in the beginning, but learning to identify feelings and exploring into the messages they bring us is an invaluable survival skill. Simply start with the awareness of noticing and then allowing the feelings to naturally come up and out, without controlling them. Depending on the intensity of the emotion, sometimes physical expression is called for. This might mean finding a safe place to scream into a pillow, letting the tears flow, or even kicking and punching into the air (make sure you have a large enough space around you to do this so you won’t hurt yourself or break anything). Turn on your favourite music and dance as if no one is watching to allow the energy of your emotion to move through you. Journaling and talking with a trusted friend, family member or professional are also great options. Although the context was entirely different for Shrek, no truer words have been spoken and the sentiment is the same when it comes to emotion: they’re “better out than in”.

Be realistic about goals and intentions

Another honesty alert: this is a really big one for me. As a highly-driven and self-critical perfectionist, I have a pattern of biting off more than I can chew, which usually results in overwhelm and frustration because I just can’t do it all. In follow up to this, my next tendency is to get mean and chastise myself for all of the places I’ve fallen short. I am seriously living and learning this in real time, right now, and so I speak from the heart when I say it’s best to be honest, practical, and realistic with yourself when it comes to setting goals and intentions. Even better, remember to keep it simple: start with one small thing at a time and allow yourself to fully master it so you can use your accomplishment as a building block to further success. Remember to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) goals, and break down the big stuff into smaller chunks with detailed action plan steps. In this way, you will be better able to see your progress in terms of the baby steps you make along the way. Please trust me when I say this can be very encouraging, as every bit of progress made in the direction of your goals counts as a win. I’ve recently started making lists again, and it’s truly incredible for keeping me focused and on track. One last note on this topic: please be very kind and extra gentle with yourself, and remember you are aiming for progress, not perfection.

Limit exposure to negativity

The bottom line on this one is that you basically should not, under any circumstances, listen to the haters. I know this is hard, considering the prevalence of negativity, doom, and gloom that seems to be all around us at the moment. But again, when we begin with the awareness of where negativity is coming from in our lives—be it a specific person or people, or mainstream and social media, we are better equipped to take action to protect ourselves from it. Please do not underestimate the fact that all of the sensory impressions we take in have an impact on us, and there is definitely a danger in being overexposed. We can become anxious and angry as we gradually and unknowingly take on the negativity as our own. for this very reason, coupled with my sensitivity, I’ve personally made the conscious decision to steer clear of the mainstream media for some time, and have also found it helpful to limit the amount of time I spend on social media platforms recently as well. I encourage you to take note of how you feel after spending time around certain people. Ask yourself what your triggers are. Listen to what your heart says and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your wellbeing.

Acknowledge the darkness and counter with the light

Yes, there is darkness in the world. Acknowledge and accept the reality. Know the truth of it. Even understand the necessity of it. Then find a piece of positivity to counter balance the darkness with a little bit of light. There are two ways I like to do this. This first is practicing gratitude, and before you go grumbling about how terrible everything in your life is, know you can always, always, always find something to be grateful for. Once you start looking for the good stuff by cultivating a gratitude practice, seeing it gets easier, and you’ll be re-wiring your brain in the process. Make practicing gratitude a daily habit, and watch what happens in your life as a result.

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The second tool for focusing on positivity is using mantras and affirmations. Repeating a personal mantra or affirmation is a way of feeding the subconscious with encouraging thoughts and messages. Come up with a set of personal mantras or affirmations that you can repeat to yourself many times a day, whether you’re encountering challenges or just want to set the tone for a positive experience throughout your day. You can also write your mantras/affirmations on sticky notes and place them in various places where you will see them throughout the day, such as a bathroom mirror, computer monitor, or on the dash of your car.

Always choose love over fear

Consider this scientifically proven fact: Fear is accompanied by a contraction of energy and vibrates at a relative resonance of 100, while love is an expansion of energy that vibrates at a relative resonance or speed of 500. Even if none of this makes any sense to you whatsoever, all you really need to know is that it’s always better for your actions to be underpinned and motivated by the energy of love, as opposed to that of fear. This is the simple science behind the reason why it’s always preferable to align yourself in support of something, instead of being against the opposite. This point, perhaps above all the others, is worth keeping at the top of our minds during these tumultuous times.

Allow time for rest

As humans, many of us have a crazy compulsion to stay in perpetual motion. We literally push ourselves to the point of exhaustion—and beyond, functioning on caffeine and fumes. We get antsy when someone asks us to sit still for a moment. There’s always just one (or maybe two or five) more items on our to-do list that have to be addressed, like, immediately. We view rest as something for the weak and meager, rather than an essential component of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. So, in case you haven’t picked up on what I’m putting down, I’m just going to spell it out for you: the importance of investing in rest cannot be overstated. Taking a five-minute break away from a hectic day to meditate and reset your nervous system can be extremely beneficial, translating in stress reduction and increased feelings of peace. All you need to do is set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes and become aware of your breath. Allow your thoughts to come and go, and just keep coming back to the breath, over and over. Give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose—except for maybe anger, depression, anxiety, insecurity, and fear. In fact, I bet you’ll start to notice a difference with a consistent practice of as little as five minutes per day.

Once again, I speak from personal experience when I say the dangers of not getting enough sleep  are very real. When I am operating on a sleep-deficit, which is pretty much anything under eight hours a night, I am more emotional, cognitively impaired, and less able to deal with life in general. I’ve noticed the same to be true for my children and other adults with whom I interact on a regular basis. Although my children (and many others who suffer from lack of sleep) are reluctant to admit, they are more acutely sensitive and less able to deal with routine challenges and setbacks when they are over tired. The good news is that when you take control of the reigns by strictly enforcing a set bedtime for yourself, you will slowly and gradually begin to feel better and be more productive. I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my mood and motivation levels as a result of sticking to a regular sleep/wake schedule for the past five days, and I intend to continue to be fiercely protective of my bedtime because I don’t enjoy the consequences.

My apologies for the excessively long post, but I feel it was important to address all of the tools and strategies that are helping me along—and that I hope will help you, too. Do any of them resonate with you? Which ones? And is there anything you would add to the list? I’d love to hear from you.

One final note: As some of you may have read in my last blog post, the word I chose for myself in 2017 is metamorphosis. To be quite frank, one of the reasons I struggled as much as I did in January was because I chose this enormous theme for myself, and then I started to feel overwhelmed, and ultimately like I was writing cheques my ass couldn’t cash. I seriously began to question myself and feared the possibility that I would never fully become the metaphorical butterfly. But when I go back and reread the words I’ve just written—when I apply these concepts to my own life and couple it with the knowing that good things take time and anything worth achieving usually doesn’t come easily—I am more confident than ever that I definitely made the right choice.

So, I may not be ready to emerge as a butterfly…yet.
It’s just that I am still becoming.

All my love, always.
Andrea

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Reinventing with a Single Word for 2017

The practice of choosing a word to guide us into and through a new year has become quite common—sort of a more fluid update to the alternative resolution setting, if you will. The word should be something important and meaningful, and serves as a thematic focus or guidepost for how you want to live. As the underlying intention for your choices and actions, the word represents a feeling, sense of being, or something else you’d like to attract or create more of in your life.

The process of choosing my word for this year was surprisingly efficient, which hasn’t always been the case for me, as I am prone to chronic over thinking and analyzing these types of things until the cows come home. But this time was different. On December 29, a friend posted on Facebook asking who had chosen a word for 2017, and while I hadn’t given it much thought at that point, my word hit me very suddenly—entirely organically and with almost frightning velocity.

But it felt right. It also felt enormous and heavy, and if I’m being honest (which I generally am because it’s the only way I know how to be), it made me a touch uncomfortable. But that’s also the reason why I knew I had found the right word for me this year.

In science and biology, metamorphosis is an incredible process of change that a living creature endures after its birth, transforming it from one physical form to another entirely different state. Most commonly, we think of it as the process that changes a squiggly little tadpole into a mature frog, or a slimy caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.

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While all of this science stuff is unquestionably true, my word for 2017 has a slightly different meaning to me. I am madly in love with the idea that we as humans can be ever-evolving and changing. We can even completely reinvent ourselves if we choose. With this in mind, I can no longer stay inside the comfort of the container in which I’ve been living. I’ve become too much for the shell that surrounds me. Shedding layers and a “skin” that no longer feels like home, this is the year I will emerge, transformed—a new and improved version of myself. Cha-cha-changes!

The sheltered state of being and the span of time during which I have been inwardly focused on deep growth has served its intended purpose in bringing me here. In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it were not for taking the time and space to process, heal, and grow beyond what I once was. For the most part, these changes have happened in darkness and isolation, just like the pupa stage in the life of a butterfly. And now, as a result of having undergone the lessons and changes, the time has come for me to emerge from my chrysalis, with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence in myself.

Trusting the timing of my life and summoning all the courage I have inside, the time has come to push my way out of the walls that have enclosed me. And as the light seeps in through the cracks of my cocoon, I’ll slowly begin to make my way out. Once free from my enclosure, I will follow the cue of a butterfly, gracefully spreading my wings to show my true colours. And then, I will fly.

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And so it happened just like this: the question was posed and I quickly found my word, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say my word found me. All of this transpired in the same day, maybe even the same hour. Energized by this newly cemented positive intention, I had created a new vision board for myself, with metamoprhosis as the central focus, before the time I went to bed on December 30.

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As the board reflects, my transformation has and will continue to include regular yoga and meditation practice, writing, learning from nature, listening to the voice of my intuition, along with generous doses of fun, happiness, simplicity, confidence, grace, balance, inspiration, power, and of course love.

Now that I think of it, metamorphosis is more than my word for 2017; it’s the real and powerful process in which I’m currently immersed. It’s my intention or drishti (focus) and my mantra for continued growth during the year that lies ahead. It signifies both where I am and the direction in which I want to go. And I think it goes without saying that I’m super stoked to see what will happen next. It also doesn’t hurt that, according to numerology, 2017 is a “1” year—a year of manifestation and new beginnings, as well as creation, love, intuition, and success. I have a feeling it’s going to be an amazing year!

Have you chosen a word or theme for yourself? What plans and goals, resolutions and intentions will you be nurturing this year? I’d love to hear from you about what you’re cooking up for 2017!

A Dreamer Takes Flight

I’ve settled into my spot in 7A. My carry-on bag has been stowed securely under the seat in front of me. I spend the first 60 minutes of the flight from Toronto, Ontario to Oranjestad, Aruba reading 54 pages of Stephen King’s On Writing. Knowing little else of his life other than his notoriety as an author of numerous thriller genre books, I’m quite tickled by King’s keen wit and wry sense of humour. I may have actually chuckled out loud…twice…reading how he caught a terrible case of poison ivy after making the choice to go number two in a forested area and wiping with glossy green leaves.

I’ve put the book away and had water, coffee, and some (plain) plane cookies. Following my in-flight guided meditation, a Ludovico Einaudi piano melody flows through the thin white chord that extends out of the bottom of my phone and then separate into two branches; each one delivering a steady stream of full, rich, sound into the tiny buds in my ears. A soft, plaid flannel wrap is draped across my legs to keep away the airplane draft.

7A is a window seat, directly above the left jet. Looking out the window at 39,000 feet, the trivial details that previously preoccupied my thoughts around the items I forgot to pack (the tally currently stands at hairbrush, razor, and sunscreen) have completely faded away, replaced with seemingly endless blankets off cotton-baton like clouds. The sky clears a little, and my view becomes a haze of solid grey with only a string of clouds formed into a long straight line just beneath the jet. Then all of a sudden the entire sky changes to a sheet of brilliant cyan with not a single cloud in sight. I am mesmerized by the sky’s beauty, in all its changing forms.

I am defying the laws of gravity, floating through the atmosphere. The great expanse of the wide-open sky is my home, at least for the next few hours. I am flying.

This bird’s-eye view of the world has created a shift inside me. My spirit is lifted as high as the elevation at which we’re flying, and my heart is filled with the hope that all things—both great and small—are possible. Left alone with my thoughts, climbing to the top of the universe, I’ve found comfort in a soft blanket of clouds and my own dreams.

I’ve recently set a big dream in motion, speaking aloud the deepest desire of my heart. And I wonder if this is why the sky is unfolding so magically for me today, showing me both the vastness of possibility and the impermanence of everything. The meaning is far greater than I’m currently able to express. Today, the sky represents a new beginning; the start of something so incredible I don’t yet fully understand. Whatever it is, it’s something so remarkable and beautiful and potentially life-changing that I’m not yet able to articulate it in words.

In this moment, I’m no longer thinking about what is or isn’t in my suitcase.

Everything is perfectly simple and simply perfect.

I have my head in the clouds and I’m flying on the wings of my dream.

Calling All Love Warriors

Is the true mark of a good book one that’s been referred by numerous friends, approved by critics, and reached the top of the bestseller list? If you ask me, the best indication of a book’s merit is its ability to strike a chord and hit me where I’m going to feel it—right in my humanity.

And that’s pretty much exactly what Glennon Doyle Melton’s, Love Warrior, did. It hit me square in the face and simultaneously yanked at my heartstrings, while calling into question all of the darkness and light of being a woman and what it really means to be human.

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I hadn’t even heard of the author until about a month and a half ago, when a Facebook friend began posting about reading Love Warrior. She apologized to her family and friends to let them know she would be holed up in her bedroom for as long as it took to get through all of the pages of this particular story, which I distinctly recall her referring to as intense.

At the time I wasn’t sure why, but I was compelled to get my hands on a copy of this memoir by an author about whom the only thing I knew was that she went by three names. Having just finished Love Warrior and being left emotionally depleted and somehow hopeful and also changed and as though I want to read it all over again in order to soak up more of its goodness, I am again compelled to let the world know this book is an absolute must read.

I couldn’t have predicted the way in which Love Warrior would affect me, finding its way into the deepest, darkest crevices of my heart. It’s not just because I feel a strange sense of sisterhood toward the author, who obviously understands the cause and effect of being a highly sensitive person in an often intensely insensitive world. It’s not just because she has an uncanny ability to turn a phrase so simply and beautifully that it is, at once, both breathtaking and heartbreaking. (She’s exactly the type of powerful female author I aspire to become.) It’s not just because her life story is both riveting and compelling. It’s not the profound choice that she’s made over and over again to carve her path guided by trust and faith. And it’s also not just because her experiences, and her choices in reaction to them, resonated for me so deeply that I can’t even explain it, and have been left with no other choice but to feel it in the depths of my soul. It’s not just any one of these things in isolation. It’s actually all of them, and so much more.

This story reminded me of being at an interesting and critical point in my own life; standing at a crossroads where unexpected pieces of my past are converging to form the present. Similarly, Melton poignantly reflects on her experience of being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and writer while overcoming the odds stacked against her. And to top it all off, she does all of this with an unparalleled sense of grace, the likes of which are rarely seen in our time.

The totality of Melton’s story of unlearning everything she once thought she knew and unbecoming everything she thought she was, is eerily familiar to me. This must be why her words have landed so close to my own heart, shattering it into tiny pieces and leaving me to pick up the debris.

While the circumstances of her life path are quite different from mine, there are a number of common threads too similar to be ignored. Warp threads are spun by two women trying to make sense of their lives and figure out their place in the world. The weft threads are the sheer determination that, no matter what happens along the way, these two women will always choose the path of honesty and remaining true to themselves. The interweaving of warp and weft has created the fabric of our lives, both Melton’s and mine.

On a side note, every time my kids and husband came home over the past few days to find me sobbing as I made my way through the final five chapters, they would always ask, “You’re reading that book again, aren’t you?” And on these occasions, they would ask me with great concern what the book was about and why it was so upsetting to me. Each and every time I failed to find adequate words to express the intense feelings it was eliciting from within me. But what I can say is this: Love Warrior landed in my lap at just the right time, allowing me to open my heart and shed a few layers of its skin as I was immersed  in a story that took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from disbelief, loss, and grief to acceptance, faith, grace, and love, and everything in between.

It doesn’t quite do justice to Glennon Doyle Melton’s gift as a writer to say I enjoyed Love Warrior, and it simply wasn’t possible for me to ignore the urge to write this post. Because doing so is the most honest choice and the next right thing I can do to honour where I am at right now. (And also because this is important work and everyone needs to read it.)

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Love Warrior has reminded me of our shared humanity and the need to keep coming back to love in these tumultuous times. It dug up and forced me to feel some deep emotional baggage that I’ve been carrying (even though I didn’t really want to). And, yes, I’m just going to go ahead and say it—it’s changed the way I choose to look at the world.

I actually enjoyed this book so much I just may go read it all over again. And if you want to read something interesting and important that was created out of the only force that matters and on which we all need to focus more of our attention during this lifetime, dare I say, so should you.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy, fix yourself a tea or coffee, get cozy, and start reading Love Warrior today.

Perhaps you’ve already read Love Warrior? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Freedom and Liberation, 40 Years in the Making

Never mind what the haters have to say about the trappings of turning 40. Mid-life and over the hill, my ass! And yes, I did just say ass, TWICE!

From where I stand, 40 seems to be the exact right number of years needed to walk the earth, facing trials and triumphs and learning how to appreciate the polarities at both ends of the spectrum. That’s right, the real gifts of this milestone have everything to do with a 40-years-in-the-making perspective on life that I’m in awe of being able to call mine.

To me, turning 40 represents a surprising sense of freedom, the likes of which I’ve not experienced since my youth, but with the added bonus of a broader perspective, more experience, and whole lot more wisdom.

I’m talking about the freedom of shedding layers and feeling safe enough to take off the façade of perfection.

Freedom from falsehoods and limiting beliefs I’ve finally been able to set down like bags of garbage.

Freedom from the fallacies and rigid definitions of what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mother.

Freedom from the heaviness of all the expectations, including both the ones I accepted from others and the ones I imposed upon myself.

Freedom from the need to derive my sense of belonging and worth by putting the needs of others ahead of my own.

Freedom from the sick and twisted compulsion to continually sell my ideas, and myself, short.

Freedom from unnecessary guilt and shame, about…you name it. (Not sure if there even is such a thing as necessary guilt, but you catch my drift.)

Freedom from playing the role of the victim.

Freedom in the realization that there are absolutely no guarantees and I have no control.

Freedom from caring too much what others think about me. (Okay, maybe I’m not totally there yet, but I am working on it.)

I’m not sure exactly what it is about 40, but it feels as though all the jigsaw pieces are finally beginning to click into place. The shapes and patterns and colours are starting to interlock and fit together just right. The outlines of each individual piece dissolve and reveal one breathtaking composite image. The vivid watercolours continue to bleed into each other to create a beautiful mess infused with the grace and love of both the darkness and the light.

I absolutely love this Sophia Bush quote.

I absolutely love this Sophia Bush quote.

And while I’m on the subject of light, just last week I had the honour of attending the Step Into Your Starring Role retreat, led by the mesmerizing Tanya Geisler. About midway through the afternoon during a break, with her unique brand of sincerity and shoot from the hip candor, the luminous Tanya, whom I had only just met the same day, remarked that I really have my “stuff” together. My ego jumped up and down with the giddiness of a young child and squealed with delight, as she was a genuine and unbiased witness to the work I’ve being doing on myself.

But this simple exchange did so much more than stroke my ego, it marked an important point in my continued evolution, my liberation from the shackles that have kept me frozen with fear and paralyzed by perfection. I know this is true because the ‘me’ from five years ago wouldn’t have been able to sit with her words. The ‘me’ from five years ago would have  squirmed with discomfort. The ‘me’ from five years ago would have refuted Tanya’s observation, handing over the reigns to my imposter complex with a string of nonsense about how she must be mistaken and I must just be good at faking it. But in another surprising twist of fate, that’s actually not what happened at all.

Do you want to know what really happened? In a sense, I stepped into my starring role, and I got bold. After taking a moment to collect my thoughts and let Tanya’s words settle into my soul, I took a deep breath in and simply said “thank you”. I had allowed myself to be seen AND accepted a compliment in one fell swoop. And you know what? It felt really good.

So as I sit here on my birthday eve, reflecting on this step and the many others that have brought me to this point, I’m excited to finally be showing up for the party that is my life. I am grateful for all my blessings, as well as the struggles, knowing each one has brought me to now. There’s been a lot of toiling and trudging to reach this place, and yet I know the real big and meaningful work of my life is likely just getting started.

But I’m really curious to see what lies on the other side of this proverbial hill. And I am wearing a smile about a mile wide because I know I’ve finally arrived, right where I need to be. 40 is here and it’s right on time.

Signing off with an amazing song lyric from The Strumbellas that couldn’t be more apropos for the occasion.
“I don’t want a never-ending life. I just want to be alive while I’m here.”

Check out the video for this great song here.

Just for Today

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Is this thing even on?

Hi, it’s me. I know it’s been a while. Like 56 days, I think. But who’s counting?

So, the kids are back in school and it’s eerily quiet in my house today.

The sounds of doors slamming, footsteps thumping, and raised voices fighting have been replaced with the soothing nothingness of an ambient hum.

Today no one has expected me to referee an argument. No one has come to me hungry, looking for a snack only 20 minutes after they ate their last meal. And no one in my house is whining about being bored, eyes fixed on me as the sole proprietor of fun and entertainment.

Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this moment—secretly, or then again maybe not so secretly—and actively counting down to it for the past week.

I am basking in this glorious alone time. I love the peace. I relish these silent moments. I’m soaking it all in on a deep, cellular level.

I can be quite extroverted when the situation calls for it, but I am an introvert to the core. This time is very much essential to my sanity and overall well-being.

But much more than that, this time affords me the luxury to get quiet and listen to the tiny whispers of my soul. It is in these beautiful moments I remember that the truth of who I am is not who or what my ego self would have me believe. I have nothing I need to do right now other than to just be. Best of all, there’s absolutely nothing I must prove to anyone.

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The shift from doing to being—from living a life ruled by the voices in my head to being guided by the truth in my heart—is something I must constantly bring my awareness back to, over and over again. ‘Just Being’ is deceptively tricky, and it is perhaps the most important work I can do, here in this lifetime. It represents the totality of what it means to be the best me I can be. This is my commitment.

Yesterday is gone and tomorrow hasn’t arrived.

So, even though the kids have returned to school and there’s at least a thousand things waiting to be completed on my to-do list, I am committing to the practice of just being.

Just for now.

Just for today.

56 Intentional Days

Although summer technically started a couple of weeks ago, in many ways I feel as though  summer with my family is just beginning. And with the kids slated to return to school on August 30, we have eight weeks, or 56 days to be exact, to enjoy our summer to the fullest.

Now, I don’t mean I’ll be scheduling and over programming every moment, because that certainly is not the case. That would be tedious and grueling and pretty much no fun whatsoever.

However, I’m also cognizant of going to the other extreme—not making any plans, flying by the seat of our pants, and leaving everything to chance. I speak from experience when I say this approach is dangerous. This amount of boundless freedom has a tendency to lure me into a state of submission, inducing an intoxicating false sense of security, which in the end only leaves me feeling lazy and lethargic.

I’ve finally come to appreciate that I’m a creature of habit. I crave routine and structure. I thrive on predictability and order. I’m at my best when I’ve got something specific to hold my attention and focus.

When I contrast my affinity for structure and routine against the fact that I’ve habitually been making time my arch nemesis, it’s really no wonder I’ve been feeling a little stuck in a continuous loop of “there’s never enough time in a day to do all of the things that I really want to do.” And as I’ve been working with a fantastic coach to help me unravel this and some other limiting beliefs, I feel like the time has come for a 360 degree turnaround and re-framing of my opinion about time.

I know some of you may be nodding your head in agreement with my time-as-enemy mantra, but I honestly believe this is just one of those things we all say to make ourselves feel better.

Because the truth is there’s plenty of time available when we: get intentional about scheduling our time according to our priorities, minimize the negative effect of distractions (insert social media here), and don’t let our limiting beliefs cloud our vision.

I’ve suddenly been able to put the pieces together and see, with amazing crystal clarity, my blockage about time for what it really is. It’s not that I don’t have enough time. Pppffffff! The truth is I have trouble putting myself and my needs ahead of everything and everyone else. And because of this, all the stuff I’ve been talking about—my deepest desires and the whispers of my heart—often end up at the bottom of my list.

With this new understanding I see an opening—an opportunity to form a new habit of making myself a priority, more often. As I see it, I have 56 days ahead of me right now when I can both be present for my children AND make myself and my needs a higher priority on my to-do list.

This summer, I am choosing to make friends with time by seeing it as a gift. No longer will a replay the broken-record soundtrack of “not enough time” over and over again in my head. This summer, I am choosing to be intentional about how I spend my time. And this summer I will value myself and my self-care needs by making time for me a priority.

Over the next 56 days, my intention is to dedicate some time every day to my passions and the activities that make me feel more alive and whole.

Starting today, movement (yoga and exercise), stillness (meditation), and words and language (reading and writing) have moved from the bottom to the top of my to-do list.

No attachment to objectives, no entanglement in specific outcomes. Just a dash of intrigue and a touch of excitement to see what changes and possibilities the next 56 days will bring.

Coincidentally, one of the first blog posts I wrote was about my perceived lack of time to do all the things I want to do in life. It’s kinda cool to see how much I’ve grown and how much my perspective has shifted from October 2013 until now.

Wishing you all a happy and intentional summer!

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Lessons from the Universe, Cooked Up in the Kitchen

I awoke yesterday morning with extremely dry, cracked skin on my fingers. This was unusual for me, as the skin on my hands is normally very soft and smooth, so I noticed the difference right away when my fingers caught on the sheets and duvet cover as I made my way out of bed. Later, rolling my thumb over my index, middle, and ring fingers on my right hand accentuated their roughness in contrast to their normally smooth surface. I got lost for a moment in the motion of rubbing my fingers together, as I pondered what may have caused them to become so rough over night. And then I remembered how the glass baking pan shattered into countless shards as I opened the over door to remove dinner the night before.

The moment the pan was met with a blast of cooler air from the outside, the glass cracked and popped and shattered. I was a bit stunned trying to make sense out of what had just happened. My first reaction was to rescue dinner from the wreckage. With extreme heat blasting me in the face, I fumbled to fish the Basa filets from the shards of broken glass on the solid rack that divides my oven into two separate heating compartments.

The next most pressing issue became addressing the piles of broken glass that were strewn across my kitchen floor. I called out to my daughter, asking her to bring me the vacuum, which despite hooking up normally did not work—no power, no suction, no nothin’. This moment of frustration added insult to injury, because the dog was now nosing around through the debris, as I am sure he could smell the juices from the fish mixed in with the glass. My daughter came to my aid once again, taking the dog outside while I resorted to using a broom and dustpan to clean up the mess.

By this point, I was tired, frustrated, and hungry. With the remainder of the glass contained to the oven’s main compartment and warming drawer, I decided to leave the rest of the cleanup until after dinner, which would allow time for the oven to cool and then I could also figure out what was wrong with the vacuum. Sensing my exasperation, after dinner my husband kindly asked what he could do to help with the clean up—bless his heart and bonus points for him! So together we removed all the interior racks from the oven to clean out the broken glass, picking up the larger pieces by hand and scooping up the smaller pieces with a hand broom and dustpan.

Upon reflecting on the many challenges I encountered while trying to get dinner on the table the other night (in a week I am PMS-ing, no less), I believe I handled the situation much differently than I would have only a few short years ago, when I most likely would have yelled wildly, cursed profusely, possibly lashed out in anger, and ultimately broken down in a heap of sweat and tears. Instead, I believe I handled these challenges with a good measure of maturity and grace. At the very least, I did the best I could with what I had and let go of what was beyond my control. And for someone who has a strong history of reacting in situations such as this, I’d definitely call that progress.

As I sit here now, intermittently rubbing my fingers together feeling the friction as the rough skin catches, I continue to rehash the experience in my mind, knowing there’s a lesson in everything we are presented with in life. It’s all part of the grand design, after all. I honestly believe recognizing and learning from these lessons is where true growth takes place, which is why I bother to continue thinking about it at all. And while I’m still decoding the deeper meaning behind the events that went down in my kitchen the other night, I do have a couple of thoughts I’d like to share…

The first thought is how the first thing that comes to mind is not always the cause, the reason, or the lesson. Rather, it’s sometimes necessary to dig a little deeper and question the validity of your initial assumptions, such as I should have done when I first attributed the cracked skin on my fingers to picking up the pieces of broken glass. This is because I later remembered that, while everything was taken apart to remove the bits of broken glass, my husband and I took the opportunity to thoroughly clean the inside of the oven. So the more likely cause of my excessively dry skin was the heavy-duty highly corrosive chemical cleaner we used to clean the greasy food residue out of the oven. Doh!

I chose to share this little story because I think it’s a great example of how, as humans, we are prone to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. This is an actual psychological phenomenon referred to as confirmation bias, which basically means we are more likely to see what we want or choose to see. From this simple understanding of how our minds are naturally hardwired, I strongly believe we should always be willing to question our initial assumptions and remain open to other possibilities that don’t necessarily align with our beliefs. If you are someone who is at all interested in thinking about, learning, and understanding our world and the people in it, or even from the standpoint of advancing your own personal growth, it’s helpful to know that real and meaningful change takes place when we are willing to challenge ourselves to consider differing points of view.

The second thought I had is how the glass baking dish I used to cook the fish had been subjected to opposite extremes of a high heat followed by a sudden blast of much colder air. Therefore, although I was shocked and stunned in the moment, it isn’t all that surprising that it literally cracked under the pressure. This reminded me again of human nature, and how we often subject ourselves to extremes when trying to handle the stress, pressure, and expectations of our everyday, modern lives. Likely from the fear of appearing to be weak, we compromise our own health and wellbeing by taking on too much—until we reach the point of not being able to take any more and then we crack. Oh, by the way, I am speaking from the direct experience of having been there and done that. But if we choose to see my glass baking dish as a reminder about the danger of trying to remain strong under pressure for too long, we understand the importance of learning to recognize the warning signs and taking action before things get too hot and completely out of control. This begins with throwing the “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” mindset right out the window.

Taking time for yourself, reaching out to ask for help when you need it, maintaining strong personal boundaries, and ensuring you’re getting enough rest should no longer be regarded as forms of weakness. Rather, these are the marks of a strong person who understands the importance of self-care and their own self-worth. So what I’m really trying to say here is that you are important and worthy of your own attention. We all are. And paying attention to your own needs along the way is certainly preferable to cracking under the pressure of exceedingly high expectations and trying to do too much and then falling apart into a million irreparable pieces.

In the end, I realize the lesson I was supposed to learn in the kitchen the other night could have been one of the above examples, a combination of them, or it could have been something else entirely. In fact, it could have been something as simple as a test of my patience and resolve on that particular day. Heck, if you ask my kids they would probably tell you the lesson was that we should never have fish for dinner again.

But even if I’ve missed the boat entirely and if I glean nothing else from my reflections on the situation, hopefully this will serve as a reminder for me to at least remember to put on a pair of rubber gloves the next time I clean the oven.

Do you have something to add here, perhaps something to refute or challenge around the idea of confirmation bias, or an experience you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!